Justice is an explosive word in our culture. Some people on left claim that justice evades certain people groups in our society while some on the right claim that the word is being used to liberally. I once heard a political commentator suggest that if a church goers preacher uses the term “social justice,” you should go to worship elsewhere.
Well… justice is a big, biblical idea.
Probably because it is a craving within the human soul, from the religious to the irreligious. It’s a “felt need.” The Bible has a way of addressing felt needs and it usually addresses them in such a way that emboldens the weak and shames the strong.
OT Israel craved justice. They often asked for it. The Psalms are filled with pleas to a Just God to “make it right.” The Hebrew words mispat and sedeq are used repeatedly in the OT, particularly in places where God is active in the world. Sedeq is used in relationship to “righteousness,” i.e. “God is righteous because God is just.”
That same sentiment is carried into the NT Greek text. The cherished, Protestant doctrine of Justification is linked to the idea of God’s “righteousness” and “justice.” The NT term for justice dikaiosune is the same for “justification,” a term used by brother Paul over 58 times in his letters.
These words get to the heart of the great question of biblical redemption: “How is the one God going to clean up the one world that God loves? In particular, How can God do this since God has decided to lump in fallen humans as part of his re-creation work?”
Those twin issues meet in the God-man, Jesus Christ. God’s righteous judgment against sin and his desire to relaunch human vocation (once bestowed to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, to Israel, which is now fully met in Christ). Jesus is the only way God’s justice and God’s mercy can be sustain. God announces to the redeemed human, “You are in the right since you are found in Christ.” (“in Christ”… a term brother Paul leverages over and over in the NT)
My favorite hymn (“Here is Love”) has one of the most powerful lines in all of hymnody:
On the mount of crucifixion, fountains open deep and wide,
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy, flow a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love like mighty rivers flow incessant from above,
Heaven’s peace and perfect justice, kissed a guilty world with love.
What a thought. And what a Savior.